Wednesday, December 31, 2008

RIP Walthamstow Dog Tracks

The building's demise is another example of great individual modernist art set to perish forever, even though (a) dog racing is arguably an inherently ethically dodgy sport due to the treatment of the animals, and (b) it was largely as a result of indifference rather than deliberate attempts to knock it down.
However, it could be used for a myriad of other purposes besides dog racing, ranging from art to music. Instead, it's likely that it'll be replaced by identikit flats with nothing but the desire to fit in as many people as possible. Perhaps this is the future: truly unique architecture for the working people, as grand as the Volksbühne in Berlin, set to rot without a moment's thought. Perish the thought that it could ever be grade A listed (though admittedly the food was awful).
Maybe architectural monuments such as the Hoover Building and Battersea Power Station are next...and soon we will have no trace of a city past.
This site's celebration of the aesthetic joy of sleeve art brings back so many memories - being eternally transfixed by Peter Saville's endless run of mysterious Factory Records' covers in Our Price, including the unforgettable austerity and minimal reductionism of Unknown Pleasures (which it covers here); the strong palette of colours in the 'tree of life' that features in both Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock; the forbidding secrets of Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising, with it's towering Gothic pumpkin image framed by a blood-red sky with the New York skyline menacing in the distance; and the blur of guitar haze on MBV's Loveless - a sleeve that actually captures the contents of the music...not to mention the beautiful packaging of the Constellation Records releases, and so on, with endless examples. Record sleeves have become so woven into the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, that it's easy to forget just how strong a statement - both politically and aesthetically - they can be. I've always thought that the best album sleeves are those which have a certain amount of intangible mystery and individuality to them, and yet paradoxically are strongly evocative of something about the contents within - despite however abstract the cover art may be. Which leads on to my posts below about downloading culture - could the album sleeve be another casualty after record shops, what with the rise of the mp3?
What's disappointing about that site is how banal some of the sleeve art that's on display is (and let's not even mention the presence of Lenny Kravitz on the list). Christ, even Screamadelica would look great on there compared to Regurgitator. From the top of my head, here's my list of what else should be on there other than the one's even mentioned.
Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth)
Spiderland (Slint)
Things We Lost In The Fire (Low)
Yanqui UXO (Godspeed You! Black Emperor)
Forever Changes (Love)
Liar (The Jesus Lizard)
Quiqe (Seefel)
Mouths Trapped In Static / Telegraphs In Negative (Set Fire to Flames)
The Doctor Came At Dawn (Smog)
Do Make Say Think (Do Make Say Think)
Lazer Guided Melodies (Spiritualized)
Palaa Aurinkoon (Islaja - there's just something about that image of her...)
Deceit (This Heat)
Admittedly I could be here for a while (not to mention the fact that this list contains no real dance music or jazz). Any suggestions?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Back at the Flea Pit for the Christmas Recluse next week, performing with Fractured Waves...should be a corker.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

That post below about music in the internet age has really made me think about how technology has progressed and times have moved on when it comes to playing music. Twenty years ago, CDs had been only just been released on the market, and the idea of having your entire CD collection (and record collection too, with new technology, such as this Vinyl Adaptor) on an iPod only marginally bigger than a mobile phone must have seemed unthinkable. My iPod has up to 120GB of space - an unbelievably large amount, and enough to store an entire record shop's worth. Exactly what format music will be consumed in in twenty years time can only be imagined.
As mentioned below, the downside of the current download culture is the ubiquity of music everywhere and the slow eradication of the idea of the album as a coherent, whole entity rather than a collection of disposable, individually downloadable tracks, thus chipping away at the traditional pre-internet era thrill of buying an album from a record shop. Of course, you can still physically go into a record shop and buy an album, but there's no doubt that download culture has seeped thoroughly into the music retail market. The other issue of downloading culture is sound quality, of course, including the omniscience of compression more and more, as Simon Reynolds points out in this article.
The same thoughts above about iPods containing entire record collections also applies to the making of music, and particularly relates to a band that I'm looking forward to seeing at this weekend's ATP at Butlins curated by Mike Patton and the Melvins. Along with Silver Apples and United States of America, The White Noise are one of the original primitive experimental electronic 'rock' outfits, the difference with those two acts being that White Noise were based in Britain (albeit with David Vorhaus being American in origin), and congregated around the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, enlisting Delia Derbyshire along the way. An Electric Storm, with its panned drumming, tape loops and jarring samples juxtaposed with sweet pop melodies, must have sounded completely alien when it first came out.
The idea that the painfully-constructed sounds emanating from these mysterious rooms full of enormous primitive electronics, tape and synthesiser machines in the BBC headquarters could one day be distilled down to that coming from a laptop must have seemed incredible in the 1960s, just as with the idea of entire record collections existing on a piece of software barely the size of a phone. Consumer technology has become smaller - nanoized, you could call it - and more powerful rather than simply becoming bigger, as predicted in much old sci-fi. The downside of easy-to-use software such as Garageband that can be used in laptops now, as opposed to the painstaking work that must have took place splicing tapes in the huge laboratory-like rooms during White Noise's time, makes me think that perhaps punk's mantra of 'anyone can do it' has finally come true, liberated by the progression of technology.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Went to the closing-down party for Sound 323’s shop in Highgate recently, which has joined the list - along with Disque on Chapel Market, Mr CD, Reckless Records, Beano’s in Croydon (not that I ever went) and that one in the corner of Greenwich Market whose name always escapes me - of record shops closing down in London (though Sound 323 will carry on online just as Smallfish have done). Sound 323’s focus on modern composition, field recordings, experimental, free jazz, improv etc. was always going to be a niche market, and while it’s sad to see another independent shop closing its doors in an increasingly homogenised market, there’s always Second Layer Records in the basement – with its focus on noise, psych-folk, drone, out-there, etc – taking over both floors. Sister Ray, too, has managed to stay up despite its much-publicised recent problems, while Rough Trade and Pure Groove in the East End have done well.
Perhaps you could blame downloading culture and the iPod (though admittedly I have one myself, so am not immune to its charms) for the problems that some of these shops appear to be having. The question of where the album format is going next is a moot point, and something that this article addresses. The god-awful Shuffle function – which Goodnight London never uses – decontextualises the album format, so that songs are just that: a collection of songs played in completely random format, rather than sequenced in a carefully thought-out order, designed to ‘complement’ each other and introduce texture and progression into the listening experience. The Shuffle function negates any sense of the album as a linear, conscious progression of songs whose dynamics when set against each other bring focus to the whole recording. To give you an example: the juxtaposition between loud, crashing noise on ‘Ascension Day’ suddenly giving way to the serene, beautiful calm piano of ‘After The Flood’ on Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock. It’s not inconceivable that future generations of iPod users will hardly bother with the album format at all, and will instead randomly rotate individual tunes – which they’ve downloaded from iTunes or wherever rather than buying the whole album - using the Shuffle function. It may be for a long time just yet, but it could happen. Then again, it’d be unfair to demonise all download sites – Bleep cover some brilliant left-field music, for example, and there’s an argument that magazine cover mount CDs are equally to blame.
Perhaps it’s inevitable that music, like everything else (including maybe even books one day, what with Google’s new service), is becoming digitalised.
And perhaps too I’m sounding like an old fart here who’s too stuck in the nostalgia of being thrilled when going to Our Price (remember them??) all those years ago and seeing New Order’s back catalogue of albums on display, as well as purchasing Daydream Nation on tape (does anywhere apart from Second Layer and online enthusiasts still sell tape these days?). You can, of course, still go to HMV and see those albums in pristine condition on CD. Perhaps, too, as that article notes, the popularity of downloading individual tracks off iTunes or wherever has meant that there’s a weird return to the idea of singles as a dominant format – stretching way back to 7-inches and 45s - so that we’ve gone full circle in a strange way, albeit updated for the digital age. In it’s own way, this is no bad thing.
Furthermore, just as there still exist those second-hand bookshops whose musty smell and cobwebs remain part of the charm, there will be always be those ‘niche’/second hand/collector record shops around for the purists – I don’t just mean Second Layer, which covers genuinely challenging left-field music, but places like Haggle Vinyl on Essex Road, Intoxica in Notting Hill, and even the tiny store next to Chingford Station who don’t even seem to have a name, but who has some cheerful old bloke running it. The last time Goodnight London went through its hallowed racks (including some serious Joy Divison/New Order/MBV etc back-catalogue stuff on vinyl), even he admitted that business isn’t easy, and he would know, having ran the store for 25 years. Check it out if you, erm, ever fancy going to Chingford Station.
There’s also The Dream Machine in East Dulwich, which continues the fine tradition (took up also by Second Layer) of being in the basement of a building. There’s just something about hermetically-sealed basement record shops, the thrill of descending a flight of stairs to another world completely, one that’s different to your own, which is the feeling indie record shops should elicit. It’s a feeling I always got with the Covent Garden branch of Rough Trade (since moved to Brick Lane, of course).
Anyway, I will be playing with Fractured Waves at an in-store on Friday 28th November at The Dream Machine, on around 7:30 or so, if anyone fancies coming down. Map here; nearest train is East Dulwich. It promises to be a pretty interesting evening.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

[images from Kinetica's website]

The recent Concrete & Glass event in Shoreditch certainly felt to me like the last bastion of something creative in the area before it becomes simply too expensive and upmarket to nurture any kind of alternative arts scene. With the Hackney–Chelsea link building work gaining steam, the ossification of the area into an extension of the City and its homogenous wine bars is inevitable, despite the credit crunch. The link between the arts scene and the music scene is something that’s been well overdue, and one of the most interesting things was finding that I often preferred trawling the galleries in the area than checking out some of the bands. The Byzantine labyrinth of tunnels in the basement of Shoreditch Church set the tone for Thursday evening, while Kinetica’s gallery of hybrid technological monstrosities produced some incredible results (such as those in the pictures above). I still can’t get out of my head too the different coloured lamps that populated the room at the top floor of Cordy House, with each one revealing all kinds of weird secrets when you viewed them through a binocular.
One impression to be gained from the festival was that it hadn’t completely demolished the barriers between the arts and music crowd, as evidenced by the characters trawling through the galleries of Redchurch Street; for some reason the impression I got was that they remained entirely separate from the music goings-on.
Anyway, some highlights music-wise on Thursday: Matthew Sawyer & the Ghosts’ lo-fi, low-key set on Tuesday night at the Strongrooms; Errors playing to a packed set at the Old Blue Last; and the ridiculous 80s synth-metal band (Grosvenor, perhaps?) at Favella Chic. Sadly, Friday summed up the problem with these events: all the venues were just too packed, with no luck queuing up for The Macbeth, Catch (where the ubiquitous Selfish C**t were playing), and elsewhere, while the queue for TV On The Radio at Cargo – the festival’s big draw - went beyond the realms of the ridiculous. The only place that had any space was Pictish Trail upstairs at the Vibe Bar. Still, it led to the music venue find of the festival for me: The Brady Centre, on Hanbury Street off Brick Lane, where The Real Tuesday Weld delivered a charismatic set in plush theatre surroundings, backed up by a great film show. Just goes to show that sometimes the most interesting places are off the beaten track in that area.
Judging by the success of Barden’s Boudoir (particularly the Club Motherfuc*er), I’m guessing that Dalston, where I went school and consequently have mixed feelings about, is set to be the Shoreditch of the future. If so, Café Oto is its Spitz, before the Spitz itself sadly got shut down, replete with candlelight and a relaxed, slightly arty and intelligent atmosphere; a place that feels very much independent and untouched by the Carling-sponsored mainstream. Playing there on Saturday on Recluse’s first birthday was a blast. Thank God these places still exist before the area gets swallowed up in a tidal wave of yuppie bars.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Me here with an interview and live review of Comets on Fire. Listening to their music makes me think that if the 90's was a repeat of the 60's (as Select magazine many aeon's ago spuriously once wanted us to believe), then the "noughties" (what an awful phrase that is to describe the 00's) is a repeat of the 70's, what with the likes of COF, Espers, Sunburned Hand of the Man, MV & EE with The Bummer Road / Golden Road etc., Wooden Wand, Smegma, Wooden Shjips etc. Despite these bands' ostensibly owing huge debts to the 60s, I would argue that they actually reference the 70s far more - specifically the pre-punk period from 1970 up to around '76 (punk's 'year zero' approach wiped the slate clean in most people's minds to the point that even if the likes of Hawkwind continued beyond the 70s, they still remind inexorably bound to that certain period).
True, you could find tenuous links between those bands and out-there early 'primitive electronics' outfits such as Silver Apples and the United States of America, both of whom are firmly rooted in the late 60s, as well as other examples. But really, these bands' antecedents lie much more in that aforementioned 70-76 period that saw coming to the fore Hawkwind, disparate Krautrock acts (Can, Faust, Neu!, Amon Dull II, Ash Ra Temple), Träd Gräs och Stenar, Gong, Henry Cow and Led Zeppelin's 'Battle of Evermore' (still an incredible track despite what ever prog-rock horrors the band may have committed post-Physical Graffiti). Equally, too, the DIY approach of Sunburned and other acts of a similar ilk, and festivals such as Terrascope in America, reflect the children-friendly free festival ethos that dominated during that period (even though Terrascope itself isn't actually free). Admittedly it's easy to laugh at the worst excesses of that period, with it's preponderance of beards (something I couldn't help but notice was replicated at the Comets on Fire gig, where they were in abundance), flute solos, and Tolkien-referencing lyrics. But these bands also reference the fact that much of this music reflects the dark side of the original hippy dream as it slowly extinguished in the late 60s: Amon Duul II's Yeti in particular sounds like the acid trip gone bad, the music overloaded and dangerously out-of-control; the same could be said for Ash Ra Temple's howling ghost epic 'Traummaschine'. The drugs went sour and recession loomed (at least in Britain), giving birth to the equally bad trip vibe of Throbbing Gristle - who, ironically, appropriated much of the synaptic live spectacles that Pink Floyd (in their 60's era) and other innocent psychedelic acts employed to enhance their music five or six years before. In terms of the present, too, Selfish C*nt - forever associated with Shoreditch - and the other similar wannabe confrontational electroclash outfits that seem to congregate weekly in that area are, when it comes down to it, really just a throwback to Suicide's audience bating in late 70s in pre-gentrification Lower East Side NYC.
Incidentally, the Green Man festival that I just went to had echoes of the early 70s era, with Pentangle on the main stage on the Sunday night and much of the acts on the (cringeworthily titled) Folky-Dolkey stage in a similar vein, not to mention children running around everywhere. A shame, then, that any hopes of shamanic dancing in fields was obliterated by three days of torrential downpour, to the point where I missed Comets on Fire offshoot Howlin' Rain's set due to, well, howling rain. The only thing to do was play cards in the tent instead. Such is the pitfalls of British outdoor festivals. The first picture below was took on Friday near the main stage, when a faint belief in a beautiful, sun-kissed weekend persisted; the latter was took on Sunday at the top of a hill at the festival.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Off to The Green Man festival tomorrow and expecting to see some serious beards...check out that line-up for tasteful quality!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Interesting...and given the rumoured troubles the Foundry has been in, things could get worse. Then again, if you can afford to live around there nowadays, you're probably working in a demented finance department in the City anyway. Doubtless many who were in the queue for Trailer Trash last Friday do - no sane person in their right mind would wear moustaches (the new fashion) combined with 80's white Reebok trainers.
Nonetheless, the area still exerts a great fascination for me, with the contours of the area often springing deep surprises. Forget the garish technicolour excess of Shoreditch High Street / Old Street for a while and the area can produce all kinds of revelations while wondering drunk through its streets. For all it's faults, it reminds me repeatedly of the kind of scene that Glenn Branca, Sonic Youth, Swans etc. spawned from in late 70's/early 80's NYC, where experimental art rubbed shoulders with nearby financial districts in a startling juxtaposition. Sad that I had to move, exacerbated with these kind of rents in Bethnal Green alone...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Great review of My Bloody Valentine live here on 3AM Magazine, which has a lot of similarities to my experience at the Roundhouse. I managed to sit through the entire white noise middle-eight of You Made Me Realise without the assistance of ear-plugs, which surely entitles me to some kind of award. I'm guessing that it was around half an hour in a two-hour set, but I could be wrong. Like the scene near the end of 2001 when Dave Bowman goes into the monolith 'Star Gate', time became twisted and compressed - it could have been anything up to 30 minutes, during which time the eyes were bombarded by advancing patterns of light on the screen and the ears by a sound equal to a Boeing Jet 747 taking off. I distinctly remember my heart skipping a beat from the sheer noise when, finally, they slammed back into the main riff of the song, just after that pause when Belinda and Kevin breathily pronounce the song title. What it reminded me of the most is the maelstroms of noise that Merzbow and Whitehouse delivered with their sets in London recently, which makes me think that MBV never did settle for just being an indie guitar band of the kind that they influenced (a point dwelled upon with this post by Blissblog). Whether the lineage of MBV's sound can be traced all the way to the nadir of Oasis is a moot thought - the Gallagher brothers, after all, initially modelled themselves on Ride as well as The Beatles, while Ride's early EPs and first album (still their best releases) were influenced hugely by MBV (specifically Isn't Anything). However, it's easy to forget just how daring and avant-garde MBV could be, from the Steve Reich-like flute loop that precedes Soon to the grinding industrial barrage on the Glider EP - again bridging the link between MBV and the Noise movement, as well as the likes of Glenn Branca, Swans, etc.

Anyway, what struck me particularly with the tracks from Loveless - always much more of a studio creation than Isn't Anything - was how exact it sounded to the record, with some kind of foot pedals being used by Debbie Goodge that triggered samples from the album. Elsewhere, Soon illustrated just how much MBV could have grooved if they'd chosen to follow that path on a new album which will probably never materialise; in it's own weird way, it's just as funky as Fool's Gold or anything by the Happy Mondays. It's impact live was to finally inject some kind of visceral rhythm into proceedings. But the real highlight for this reviewer was To Here Knows When - still incredible sounding, with it's lava of guitar noise, the track was stunning in a live setting, the film backdrop exploring what looked like a hidden palace of some kind, while Belinda Butcher's vocals trailed away in a whisper, surrounded by jets of molten guitar lighting up the sunset. That track alone made up for missing Glenn Branca's 100 guitar orchestra at the same venue nearly a year ago.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So six months (or even longer) after the announcement that My Bloody Valentine have returned and will be playing live, Goodnight London will be attending the Roundhouse on the Sunday. A full fifteen years ago (or whatever it is) after playing live, it should be interesting to see exactly how those studio creations are replicated in a live setting. Indeed, having never seen them live back in their heyday, it's almost impossible for me to imagine almost anything from Loveless played live (particularly To Here Knows When, with it's aural Universe of guitar haze and submerged, barely discernible drum loop). Given that there probably wasn't a huge amount of people who saw them live directly post the release of Loveless, the album has become almost a museum piece, immutable and non-changing in people's minds, so much a product of the studio that the thought of it actually being played live is still difficult to comprehend in some ways.
Both Isn't Anything and subsequently Loveless are so of their time - pre-Internet, pre-Britpop indie, pre-grunge even, when indie really was indie (despite the cross-over appeal of The Stone Roses) - that the prospect of MBV in 2008 is something of an anachronism. It can't even be compared to another performance that Goodnight London recently witnessed at the Roundhouse which harked back to a similar era, Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation played in it's chronological order, because of that band's constant output and activity. In contrast, MBV's disappearance from view has led to a cult mystique that's exacerbated in this comeback by the lack of any new pictures of the band (the one in the flyer above is from 1988 at least).
Just as with that concert, though, this MBV show will doubtless be a bizarre nostalgia trip for much of the audience (including me).
It'll also feature in the Metro and some other papers, no doubt - itself a strange thought. MBV have always represented a kind of outsider music that combined with their two guy-two girls androgynous appeal, along with the deliberate blurring of Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher's voices on their records, so that often you didn't know which is which. MBV's image is, in it's own way, another factor that remains so rooted in that period, first with the shoegazing fringes and then with the effeminate posing of Suede. They never were the kind of band that featured in anything other than the indie publications despite their huge cult following. But then the same could be said about Spiritualized. How times move on...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddly RIP

The business of moving rooms has conspired against me when it comes up to blog updates but will be back pretty the meantime, another legend bites the dust.

You've been taking
Taking all my money and my clothes
You don't love me baby
You don't love me
Now I know

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A masked ball of the most unusual magnificence...

After Faust last year, which took place in a warehouse in Wapping, the recent immersive theatre performance of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death at Battersea Arts Centre, which has just finished it’s run, is another amazing Punchdrunk production. Just as with their treatment of Faust’s multi-linear storyline, the site-specific play is certainly breathtaking to behold in visual terms: some sixty rooms take you through the story of Prince Prospero’s fight in his abbey against the advancing plague of the Red Death, wherein the protagonist eventually falls dead at the feet of the disease, personified in human form by a mysterious guest shrouded in black during the masquerade ball. With the winter chill outside at that time, it seemed a perfect time to experience Allen Poe’s allegory supposedly about the inescapability of death.
The opulent surroundings of Battersea Arts Centre, with its grandiose chapel designs and balconies, certainly fit the gothic mis-en-scene. As with Faust, the mask wearing was compulsory, as you flitted between actors reciting lines and simply exploring the huge, cavernous maze of differently coloured rooms inside the BAC. On some four floors or so, the vast space took in different floors and rooms, including a huge bar on the top floor with cabaret, a live band, and belly dancing. Meanwhile, the main auditorium was done up brilliantly like a castle at the edge of a dark forest, bathed in blue light, with the actors wandering around you. It’s the attention to detail that’s so amazing: rooms done up intricately with nineteenth-century pianos, furniture, clocks, and pages of Poe’s writings stuck on the floor and walls; gangway corridors through white sheets; bedrooms with four-poster beds…Perhaps inevitably, the result of this overwhelming experience is that the visitor loses their way in following the story in a normal, linear manner; but the point is that Punchdrunk performances are designed as an immersive embracing of both location and story. During Faust I only half followed the story, being so enthralled with the different rooms and huge auditoriums in the Wapping warehouse; a similar principle operated at the BAC. The finale - where you ran through an incredible huge church-like area with high domes and ceilings from some bygone age – remained out of this world, topped off the ball and red confetti - the colour of blood. Beforehand, while walking the streets of east and south London in the winter dark, the title track from Burial’s Untrue played in my headphones. It’s disembodied voices and eerie industrial noises, where everything sounds submerged and muffled, fitted the scenery of late-night London perfectly, with its barely-lit alleys, Victorian houses and ghosts of centuries past - of the great plague, Shelley and Jack the Ripper. The creaking, deserted overtones and alienated voices that emerge in Burial’s music wouldn’t have been out of place as the soundtrack for the performance, in fact, with The Masque’s gothic, candlelit vibe and feeling of impending doom. There’s even a weird parallel wherein parts of Untrue remind me of the more subdued, bleak industrial noise soundscapes that Godspeed You! Black Emperor came out with on their first two albums, in-between the crashing guitar riffs and violins. Listen to the first album and the last five minutes of CD1 of Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven and you’ll see what I mean.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Just when I've lamented the death of interesting art/live music venues in London, another one comes along: Cafe Oto in Dalston, where I'll be playing with Archslider on Tuesday 22nd April. £3 and the doors open at 8pm, I believe...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So there's the resident weirdo/lunatic on my long nightbus home, the only one that goes to my door (I won't tell you what number it is in case s/he is reading this, and decides to lynch me on said bus route). London nightbuses are the true microcosm of the city's shifting population post-club or pub: all human life is here, either engaging with their friends in drug or alcohol-addled narratives that quickly degenerate into nonsensical bravado, or about to get off and throw up in the gutter while the stars shine above.
For a start, I can't really work out whether this person is male or female. I think it's a she, but she has a very deep bloke's voice, and I can't be quite sure. She's always wearing sunglasses - on a bus at night - and always appears to be on the same specific bus as me, right from when it starts at Trafalgar Square. Fate appears to have brought us together. It's a long route to my place, and she's there all the way, always on her mobile. That's an hour on the phone, at 3am or 4am in the morning. How many people do you know have hour long discussions on the phone at that time? Then there's the bizarre snippets of conversation that I can hear, which range from imploring quiet, to rage: "Get out of my life!" She once mounted a tirade because the unnamed people weren't British, then appeared to brag about her Caribbean descent for an innumerable amount of time. A whole hour of conversation.
Who are these people? It never ceases to amaze me how 'they' are oblivious to those around them while carrying out deeply personal conversations. The advent of mobile phones has led to a scenario where people's private lives are paraded for all to hear; the usual response is to turn up your iPod (I once blocked this woman out by playing a fourty-minute Merzbow track, which left me feeling strangely relaxed and clear-thinking). But for want of a better thing to do on the bus now that my iPod has broke, I am becoming bizarrely obsessed with the minutiae of people's lives.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A mirror on society

After my post in June last year here about The Apprentice (scroll down a bit), I noticed with interest the new series starting tonight. Alan Sugar's tedious pre-series brag claimed it would be nothing like previous episodes, when in fact it appeared to be exactly the same: they're still in an office that Sugar clearly doesn't own, despite the pathetically bad inference being that somehow he does. The contestants may as well be carbon copies of those on the previous show. They had the now de-rigeur intra-team argument at the end between them. Sir Alan's two zombies - sorry, henchmen (or henchwoman) - still have exactly the same furrowed brow expression the entire time. Do these two ever get excited or happy at anything in life?
Surely I can't be the only one who laughed at Sugar's announcement to the assembled drones that "the winner will be on a six-digit salary. But the real prize will be working for me." Something like 20,000 people applied to be on the show, which tells you what a weird society it is we live in: 20,000 people not only idolising this old blowhard but applying for the pleasure of being yelled by him too in his Brentwood HQ. In case we'd forgotten, though, the faceless narrator is at hand to inform us that Sugar - sorry, "Sir" Alan Sugar, before I get arrested by the police for not saying his full name - is boss of the "phenomenally successful Amstrad company". Yes, that computer giant of the last fifteen years that has left Microsoft and Apple quaking in it's shadow. Of course, Amstrad has now been sold off to Sky, leaving most people's knowledge of the company presumably based around those primitive 80's PCs that used BASIC, which some computer boffins doubtless get nostalgic about. Yes, I admit, I had an Amstrad CPC-464.
Despite the cringe-inducing scene in which the seperate groups of men and women sought a 'brand moniker' name for their 'team', their was some enjoyment in seeing posh boy Nicholas de Lacy-Brown's exit, a man who appears to be a bizarre simulacrum of David Cameron and Tim-Nice-But-Dim (just read the bio in that link for hilarity). This, clearly, is what The Apprentice is really about. Never mind that it is as far from 'reality' in a business and work context as it's possible to get, despite it's 'Reality TV' label. Ultimately the program serves as a form of catharsis for the public, whose frustrations are exorcised in the schadenfreude that accompanies all but one of the contestant's downfall.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RIP Arthur C Clarke

"I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do."

Sad to see you go.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Another Recluse night this Thursday 13th...

...again at the Flea Pit, with Archslider (to which I will be adding guitar), Elite Barbarian and Isnaj Dui...entry only three pounds.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We are all doomed

After my post here about the abomination that is Mark Ronson (scroll down a bit), it is with a crushing, deeply depressing inevitability that I could only watch, powerless, as the man scooped best British male at the unwatchable debacle that is the Brit Awards tonight. So there you have it, people - the future of British music is Mr Ronson and his endlessly irritating karaoke "Versions" which will no doubt haunt me every time I happen to be near the vicinity of a clothes shop / HMV / pub with jukebox / working-man's cafe / [insert random establishment here], especially now that it has the seal of approval that comes with winning an award. Ronson's a serious artist now, you see. The horror, the horror: in the midst of this mediocre wank-fest there followed a "medley" - never a good thing - of him performing a Coldplay tune with his "friends" including Adele and Amy Winehouse, before moving onto "Valerie" and other inoffensive Radio 1-lite nonsense, while simultaneously playing a double-necked guitar, as if you are somehow watching the reincarnation of Jimmy Page. If you want a vision of the future, imagine endless Mark Ronson's stamping on the face of any inventive, interesting music - forever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Back from a sojourn in Gothenburg, Sweden...

...and the picture below sums up just how stylish some of the city's bars are. Then again, amongst the beautiful canals, grand buildings, and lovely tram system (when is Oxford Street going to have some?), there was always the above..."speed bumps", apparently.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I've moved from Bethnal Green

There's a wonderful excerpt here on Pitchfork's site from a new book about the No Wave scene that coalesced in downtown New York in the late 70's. Reading the quotes from various movers and shakers in the scene from that extract, including the obvious suspects - Lydia Lunch, James Chance, various members of Mars (pictured above) etc. - the biggest impressions are how cheap it was to get buy (I couldn't help but smile at this quote from Glenn Branca: "I had a 1200 square-foot loft for $180 a month"), how readily available space was, and the inherent possibilities opened up as a consequence. I suppose comparisons could be made with Notting Hill and Portobello Road earlier on and at the same time as No Wave, with it's countercultural ripples and a squat scene that took in Hawkwind and (later on) The Raincoats. It makes somewhat depressing reading given the contrast with both cities now; it's hard enough to maintain a steady living in London even with a job, if it's not one that pays especially well (as a glance at this testifies). Lower East Side now, where the No Wave musicians congregated, closely resembles in some ways Shoreditch, but I would imagine LES - and certainly not the latter, with it's steadfastly increasing prices - can hardly be considered bohemian anymore, if the definition of bohemian is an area where an artistic community can make a living on a modest budget. A flat viewing in nearby Whitechapel a while ago told me all I need to know: greedy landlords are ripping us off in London. The rent was easily in the £400+ per month bracket - for a flat at the top of a block, with no lift.
So I've moved to another part of London now. Along the way, as I've navigated my way around the city I've noticed that most new residential properties that have sprouted in London look exactly the same. It only confirms just how much landlords in this city couldn't care less about aesthetics: why worry about beauty when demand outstrips supply and you can pack in as many people into as small a space as possible? After my previous post about the closure of the Spitz, we can now look forward to the prospect of Turnmills closing down, as the arts scene in London becomes more and more a casualty.
What strikes me about reading that extract is what a unique period the musicians were in: no doubt NYC must have been a nightmarish place to live in sometimes then, but around the areas that the scene converged, it nonetheless offered endless possibilities; an energy that produced genres and ideas that hadn't become compartmentalised and spun off by endless lifestyle magazines, where there was real possibilities to explore different strands of arts while not being shackled by lucrative rents. If there's any equivalent these days, it's probably elsewhere: Berlin, for one, or Montréal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hello there everybody, and sorry for the long delay in replying - a busy December and all that, including the All Tomorrow's Parties shindig hosted by Portishead. Most ATP's that I've been to have had their fair share of madness - has anyone actually had a completely sober ATP? - but Sun O)))'s ludicrously OTT set on a seriously gruelling Sunday - Boris, Earth, and Sun O))) on the main stage, various metal-looking bands on the Reds stage, Black Mountain on the Pavillion stage - pipped the competition. With a 'singer' that looked like the an extra from the Tree People in the Lord of the Rings, more dry ice than a Sisters of Mercy gig, and a general air of ludicrousness, Spinal Tap-style, mixed in with genuine excitement from the audience, they arrived twenty minutes or so late, having assaulted (I'm assuming it wasn't real) the audience with automated fire emergency building evacuation tannoys. The following two hours (a very long two hours) eschewed all the traditional signifiers of metal - pounding drums, ludicrous lyrics about "the beast" (or some such), flashy guitar solos accompanied by headbanging - leaving a sheer magma-like trail of earsplitting guitar noise and sub-bass keyboard 'notes' combined with sheer theatrics and a sublimely pantomine-like procession of Dark Ages-looking characters onstage dressed in robes. I certainly got my money's worth, if anything else, and there was also an inter-band punch-up at the end for good measure.
Meanwhile, am I the only one who thinks that the new material during Portishead's set sounded like Broadcast meets electroclash? Perhaps they've been hanging around The Macbeth / Jaguar Shoes / the Mother bar or whatever place in Shoreditch plays electroclash these days.
Other great memories of the festival: a wizened Jah Shaka of Jah Shaka Sound System (which consisted of Jah Shaka and, well, his soundsystem) babbling repeatedly at his Echo Deck (or whatever it was) about "Bablyon" and "Jah", at which point I took the picture above; the singer of wonderful folk-rock act Lucky Luke quipping about hangovers in the middle of their set while facing an audience entirely lying down (this being 12 noon on a Sunday); Onedia and their excitable drummer; Glenn Branca (picture above) conducting his guitar orchestra that included Thurston Moore, Adrian Utley, one of Fuck Buttons, and many others; Polar Bear bringing Sun Ra vibes to the Reds stage; Julian Cope's surreal end-of-set rant about "the X in Exmoor" and religion in general; the bar staff beyond despair during the 'metal day' (as Sunday was christened); the Aphex Twin mixing in the Grandstand theme tune with his set, and finishing with an undanceable gabba noise finale, topped off with the sound of someone saying "Motherfucker" a lot, as well as a sample of a track by Whitehouse (possibly "A Cunt Like You" with William Bennett yelling "look at yourself - have some fucking decorum!", though I could be wrong); ludicrous freak-out double-drummer improv rock by Damo Suzuki with Fuzz Against Junk; A Hack And A Hacksaw playing in the middle of the audience; and Simeon of 60's primitive electronics outfit Silver Apples - a man whose probably took more acid than the entire line-up of Jefferson Airplane a few times over - resembling your Dad doing karaoke onstage; Om taking ages to kick in the distortion, at which point the bar staff look terrified; Chrome Hoof in their silver-plated glam-rock stomp pomp...I could go on.
Disappointments: not being able to find the ATP cinema (where the fuck is it?). The toilets in the Pavillion Stage. Françoiz Breut not turning up and the staff not telling us until we've waited for 45 minutes, facing an empty stage. The empty nightclubs due to late sets by bands...anyway, I'm off to Flickr.